Well, there's a hell of a lot I could cover in this post. It might be another monster. Where should I start? With the fact that I came home tonight, after watching my boys play (and definitively win 0-4) a soccer match and picking up a few groceries (things to cook a lovely dinner in, in an attempt to stop myself from contacting any number of people to engage in nonsense tonight, so that I can get the rest I so very much need, before heading out to Hongdae for some all-night Rockabilly fun tomorrow night) to realize that I've somehow managed to soil every single coffee mug in my apartment without getting around to washing a single one. The distress was only compounded by the fact that the dirty coffee mugs are the only things in the sink.
Such is the state of returning to Life after my brief vacation.
Well. I'll light another cigarette with the "fucky" (thank you Aigee) nigh-tuh club lighter I somehow managed to acquire last weekend, and dig in.
The new tattoo is the first order of business, I suppose. Sitting in the park in Hongdae observing the utter failure that was Seoul Fringe Festival on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I weakly suggested to Small Town that we should just get him pierced and tattooed instead. Of course, anyone who knows me knows I can't ever go on such a sojourn without completely raining on my friends' parades and outdoing them somehow. So after he got his ear pierced with a tiny stud, I got one of my ear piercings gauged (a pleasant new body mod pain experience to add to the catalogue) and after he got a small aqua blue band tattooed around his bicep, I got this beauty drawn up and put on mine:
There was something seriously shady about Hyungnim at the tattoo place. It was like being in the mafia's lair. He got about three inches into lifting his shirt off to display his full back tattoo, the "MEA CULPA MEA CULPA" under his left arm making itself visible in the process, when I decided I probably needed to marry him. But I didn't.
Contrary to what the interwebs like to claim about tattooing in Korea, it was a decidedly cheap process, coming to a grand total of 250,000 won (about $200 US). The actual artist was a man of few words, who deferred to Hyungnim completely and, oddly enough, hummed along to the background music while he worked.
There was the trip to Chooneon the day previous. Three of my coworkers and I piled into a car and headed out early in the morning. We stopped at McDonalds for breakfast, in honor of me being an American. It was the first time since vacation started that I had been in an all-Korean speaking environment besides class, and for the first three hours my head literally throbbed. I explained the situation to my coworkers, and one of them responded, "Ah. Your ears are beginning to open." Before, given my limited understanding, Korean was a sound in the background that I could choose to tune into or not, given my interest at any particular moment. Now it seems I don't have any choice but to listen to, and strain to understand, every word. It comes in whether I want it to or not, and I can hear every syllable clearly, even if I don't know what they all mean. It's utterly exhausting, and part of the reason I'm so tired after my first week back at school.
The boys. God how I missed them. Vacation was nice, as far as getting decent rest, eating properly, having time to actually study Korean, checking out new spaces around Seoul, dally around with my college student friends at all hours on weeknights, etc. But God, it was boring. No matter how much stress I'm under at work (and believe me -- it's back in full swing, already), I love my job and take as much energy from it as I give. I've had the first graders for the first time this week, and they are absolutely brimming over. It's the first week -- they won't be all smiles and full participation forever. I'm no fool -- I know that. But it's nice, anyway. A great change from the rogue half of the second graders who seem to think spending forty-five minutes licking a toilet would be preferable to sitting through my lessons.
Although, I have to say, their more timid classmates seem to have had enough of the fair few in each class that have developed a major stick-up-the-ass problem. In each class, I've been making more of an effort to ignore the scumbags (who usually take up all of my attention) and focus on the quiet ones who have been bullied into submission by their louder peers. And they've begun to fight back for me, loudly shouting out their vocabulary over the nonsense and eagerly calling me over to show me how quickly they've finished their assignments and ask as many questions as they can. They seem somewhat embarrassed. They're starting to make themselves known, and I'll do my best to focus on them and ignore the fuckwits for the rest of the semester. It's all I can do, at this point.
The third graders continue to plague their Korean English teachers with complaints about not having my class anymore. The Korean teachers told me over lunch that the students seem to blame them somehow. I still make a trip down each third grade hallway during lunch to say hello, and even the very, very few who were a bit of handful while I was teaching them run out to say hello. The grass is always greener, boys -- isn't that so?
I had my Korean final exam last night, which was surprisingly easy for what I expected. Of course, I've not got my score back yet, so I probably shouldn't say anything. I thought, going in, that I would be quite pleased with a score of 50%. Now, after the fact, I think I'll be disappointed with anything lower than an 80%.
After, I went out to celebrate with M, one of my classmates who's been in Korea for four years and is married to a Korean. We had a couple at a place in BP that I've heard a lot about, but never been inside of, and then headed to my regular hangout to have one more on the porch. At this point, whispering started amongst two sets of two Korean guys, competing to see which pair would strike up a conversation with the waegookin first. It's hard to pretend not to notice these things anymore. Eventually, one leaned over and inserted himself into my talkative classmate's monologue. They wanted to make good friends with foreigners. They wanted to take us somewhere for a beer. Of course, it was a Thursday night, and nearly 11 pm. I protested. But M insisted that we should "try everything once". I informed him that, actually, I've tried this approximately a hundred times in the last eleven months, and it usually all leads down the exact same, repetitive road to fucking nowhere. But I'm weak in the face of the suggestion of just one more beer. What can I say?
This is where we get to Aigee 2 and Aigee 3. I can't. I can't stop thinking about the students. It's creepy, no matter how cute the little guys are. It only got worse when they both immediately phoned their mothers to put us on the line and have us say hello. They still use "oma", which is basically the Korean equivalent of "mommy".
They, of course, asked for our phone numbers, but M and I gave each other knowing looks, having discussed how difficult it is to make proper friends living as an expat in Korea earlier in the evening. I took the lead, at first, with my veteran pal giving me nod of encouragement.
"Look. I'm not giving you my number for no reason. We meet a lot of people as foreigners in Korea. I'm tired of it. If you want to be friends, that's fine -- we'll be your friends. But you have to be real friends."
They stared at me with the most innocent eyes. They don't know how many times we've already been through this. I looked back at M, for a little help: "You know what I'm talking about, M..."
"Yeah. But they don't. You need to explain more."
After going through the whole speech, we agreed to give them our numbers on the condition that they actually use them. "I'm not putting another person in my phone only to have no idea who the fuck they are in a month."
They agreed that this would not be the case. "Every day I send to you the text message to ask how are you!" Well. There's no need to go that far....
The three 'men' had a stand-off outside when it came time to put me, the fragile female, into a cab. Sometimes I swear to God I'm actually living in the 50s. Aigee 2 threw his arm around my shoulder and informed the other two that they could head on, as he would take on the arduous task of making sure I made it the fifty feet to the line of taxis safely. M gave him a good up and down and said, "How about this? How about you two go home and I'll put her in a cab?"
"How about this...." I piped up. "How about I'm an adult and the cabs are right there and I'm not even drunk and you all fuck off?"
In the end, all three walked me over. Aigee 2 tried to stick his head in the window after I closed the door and tell the cab where I was going, not knowing where that actually was. "Oh for fuck's sake..." I muttered. "I can do it! Go away!" Rolled up the window.
Before I had completed the ten minute journey, my phone had rung three times.
1. Aigee 3: "Nice to meet you! You should go home safely! I'll call you tomorrow. What time is good? Okay! Go home safely! Nice to meet you!"
2. M: "I think they're good kids. They're definitely going to call later. Take care and sleep well."
3. Aigee 2: "I saw you called [Aigee 3]! What? He said you called him. Which one of us do you like? You don't know? Okay. I'll text you tomorrow. I'll see you next week."
Both texted before I got off work today, one in Korean, one in English. I texted M to check in with him -- same same.
Still no score from the university. I've safely made it to 9 pm without texting a single person to see where they're getting their pints for the evening. Now to complete the terrible task of cleaning my disgusting apartment, doing the laundry, eating something decent for dinner and getting my sorry ass in bed for a proper night's sleep. I have a ton of work to do next week, which will require some pre-game planning on Sunday, a trip to make to the hospital in the morning to pick up my med check results, a visa renewing to sort out, a re-scheduled work social on Monday, a plan to see a terrible sounding movie on Wednesday....
Huh. That's enough for now.